Methanol Madness

A few weeks ago here at CleanAudi we got into a discussion about methanol injection. Some of us argued that using methanol was a great way to blow a motor, hydro lock it or otherwise destroy it. Others argued that when done correctly, methanol was a cheap and effective modification. Now after we had finished throwing books and computers at each other, we figured that there had to be something to secondary injection. After all, this stuff is hardly new. So what is the deal with injection systems? Well for those of us who are new to the concept, the system works by injecting a mix of water and or alcohol into the intake system of your motor. The mixture is then burned with the air and gas in the piston cylinder. The system works by increasing the octane number and burn temp of the pump gas, while reducing inlet temps. The water in the mixture evaporates, taking heat with it. This effect makes the overall temperature of the air colder, meaning more air can be crammed in. The other side of the system is the alcoholic content, because meth and other alcohols burn hotter than shitty 93, (If you use 87, you probably shouldn’t be reading this) the octane levels increase and the explosion is bigger. Colder air, bigger explosions and more energy means more horse power. That all equals good. Yea CA, but what about the dangers of meth injection and detonation? Well like most things in life, moderation is the key. We would recommend a 50/50 ratio of water and meth (Or any other alcohols, except liquor, don’t put vodka in your motor). The meth provides the kick and the water prevents detonation. Also water is good because it “steam cleans” the piston heads. No we aren’t messing with you; it really does remove carbon build up and cleans the piston heads and cylinders. As for the big problem of detonation, your mixture is what matters the most. Detonation occurs when the spark from the plug ignites the mixture, and the flame front from that ignition compresses remaining air and gas until they ignite. This makes two sources of ignition or two flame fronts. As we all know there can only be one, and the resulting explosion creates an excess of energy that can bend rods, valves and even crack blocks. However this only happens when you mess with factory settings, like putting in a meth injection system. The key to avoiding detonation is getting the right mixture. Detonation is caused by a few things, but when talking about meth, a lean mixture is usually the biggest cause. So why not just run full meth? Well that can get expensive and also result in engine failure in a different manner. Should a spray nozzle fail, and meth pool, it could lead to a blow up. We don’t think we need to explain how that might be bad. That being said, running a mixture tested by a manufacture such as AEM, will significantly reduce the possibility of too lean a mixture or too strong of one. In fact AEM has done several studies recommending a 50/50 mix, and has even concluded that the results of running full meth are not much better than the 50/50. So just run a recommend mix and avoid blowing up your motor.

On to the mechanics of it, a methanol injection system has a few basic parts. Nozzles, a pump, a regulator and a storage tank make up the main components of the system.  The pump is what sends the mixture towards its fiery end, delivered into the intake via the nozzles. The nozzles take the water and alcohol compound and turn it into a highly atomized spray; this spray then is sucked into the firing chamber and ignited. The nozzles must make the correct spray, otherwise the system could hydro lock the engine or pool meth…either way, no bueno. Some systems come with flow sensors and spray sensors in order to protect the engine and prevent damage. The regulator is the switch component, often a pressure switch that provides the signal to spray. It also works as a trouble indicator, and low fluid warnings. Basically it’s the brain of the system. Finally there is the tank, pretty self-explanatory, however it’s important to note that some choose to use the windshield washer tank, as it makes a good substitute for the tanks found in kits. There is a down side, however, and that is kit tanks come with a built in low level sensor. Big deal right, if you run out, then the car goes back to being regular. Well not quite, rather the more aggressive the tune, the more power to be had. That’s fine if you have plenty mix, but if you run out, severe detention and misfiring can happen, leading to engine damage. This can happen because the meth mix allows you to run a more advanced timing, however removing it cause that timing to be off.  There are ways around this; you could have an ECU that can switch maps to adjust. You could also choose to run a tune that does not need the meth mix to work with the car, but benefits from it. The downside to that option is the loss or potential horse power. Other things that are good to know about these systems are the placement of nozzles. Nozzle placement is important because proper placement can prevent pooling and make the system the most efficient. For example nozzles should always work with gravity not against it; this will go a long way in preventing pooling and create a more even spray. Their placement in the engine is also important. Too far away from the piston heads and the spray will evaporate before it reaches the target area. Too close and the spray will fail to ignite at all or only burn partially, this could lead to detonation problems or poor performance.

Overall alcohol injection systems have improved greatly over the past decade. The newer technologies allow for smaller tolerances and better performance. The systems are safe when installed correctly and only have the potential to cause problems when pushed to the limits. Remember that the benefits come from tuning and testing. Try not to run full meth; it really doesn’t matter after fifty percent. Oh and another thing, meth can be found at your local hardware store and most windshield washer fluids are pretty damn close to that fifty fifty mark. As always, don’t try this stuff if you don’t know what you are doing and this is a loose guide, not a reference material. Good luck wrenching.

-CA

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